"…and this isn't to be confused with the Befuddlement Draught. Simply reading ahead to fifth-year textbooks will result in failure for the childish incompetence that you all possess so if you feel the need to do so, be my guest. Otherwise, make notes on what I'll say. The Confusing Concoction is…"
Theodore was too wrapped up in his own mind to make notes, regardless that it was for his end-of-year exams. He hadn't muttered a single word from the moment he stepped into the dungeons, purposely steering his eyes away from the poisonous glances that would be thrown at him by Snape from the front of the classroom. It had been three days. Three days since he uncovered the contents of his mother's will, and he wholesomely wished that he could take them back. He had been unusually quiet with Harry and Ron, the latter finally speaking to him after luckily catching the Parselmouth in his weaker moments; his face was more sullen than what the other boys were used to. They didn't question it, thinking that Hermione being broken off from the four may have been a factor, but this was false. At least, partially false. In fact, Theodore was dwelling on his insensitive jab towards the Muggle-born as much as he thought about Snape. Intense guilt, coupled with immense confusion. Well deserved, he thought. Karma working at its finest hour.
He then suddenly touched upon the fact that he was too engrossed in his contemplation, and quickly ducked down to his bag to grab his quill, parchments and ink bottle. Although he knew most of the potions that led up to the fifth year at most, it certainly wasn't worth being caught out by Snape. Theodore smacked the parchments on the desk and dipped his quill in the ink bottle, and then proceeded to write down notes from his own memory of the potion.
The quill didn't even blot the parchment let alone touch it. His fingers were squeezing the quill tightly in response to him plummeting straight back into his thoughts again. There was too much to block out. Theodore couldn't possibly hold everything back when his thoughts had set themselves permanently in his brain, branching out, and clouding his normal train of thinking. He slowly returned to doing nothing, ignoring Snape as he became lost once more.
'My godfather, of all people… What else were you expecting? Harry's mum and dad to be your godparents? I doubt that Mum would even consider Harry's dad, after what she did to him… Idiot! She didn't do anything! She wouldn't betray him at all! She couldn't be that bad of a person…'
He placed the dried-out quill onto his right and balanced his head with his arms, eyes wandering around the room of their own accord. Everything just felt wrong and he couldn't believe that he came to such a realisation, given who his parents were. It was true that he should've expected such a thing to come to light, but it didn't dampen the effect that it had on him. It just didn't feel right, and maybe Snape knew that as well. Perhaps that was the reason why he was hiding it from him, to prevent whatever feeling was crawling inside of him. And of course, Theodore could never control himself. Always poking his nose into places where he didn't belong. That's how he opened the Chamber of Secrets; that's how he learnt the nature of Horcruxes. And he'd always pay the price for it.
Theodore's eyes stopped at the far left of the classroom and settled on Hermione, whose face was firmly kept forward, not even turning to show her cheek to the Parselmouth. He lifted his head and brought his hands to his lap, wishing that she'd turn around to see how guilty he felt. Three days was more than enough time to apologise and reconcile, but it was his stupid refusal to believe that anyone could forgive him which was holding him back. On multiple occasions could he have just said sorry, but it didn't come out. He didn't think that his stubbornness would extend to his guilt; wasn't that the case all along?
Theodore pulled his eyes away from Hermione and looked onto Draco who was appearing to do work, but like Theodore, had his quill away from his parchment. Theodore simply lifted his brows to which Draco continued, "Apparently, you've got a pet that's different from the usual. A snake, right?"
"How d'you know about that?"
"People in your House don't seem to be able to keep their mouths shut," replied the blonde boy in a snarky tone. Theodore, however, agreed with him. If it weren't for the others in the dorm, Viripin would've never been in any danger of being taken away from him. Then again, he didn't have to hide her all the time now.
"I hear that. They saw the snake and just went nuts. Almost would've lost her if it wasn't for Dumbledore. And of course, this slimy-faced git was against me keeping her," Theodore muttered as he glanced over to the Potions Master before back to Draco. Draco could only respond with a slight tilt of the head, twirling his fancy quill in hand as he too looked at Snape. The man was still drawling about the potion, somehow unaware of the conversation between the two boys.
"Is it true that you stole the snake from this classroom," whispered Draco after a moment of silence. Theodore leaned backwards and looked across the extended wooden table to check if anybody was in an earshot. Although her eyes were trained towards Snape, Pansy was too close for Theodore's liking. Leaning forwards once again, Theodore looked at the blonde boy and smirked, raising an eyebrow before looking back at his parchments. Draco's nods of approval didn't go unnoticed by the Parselmouth as he could see him in the corner of his eye, but forced himself to write the rest of Snape's words on his empty sheets.
An hour of tedious listening and writing down notes finally passed as the faint bells told the students that it was the end of the lesson. Theodore was clumsily stuffing his unused parchments, quill and bottle into his bag while his eyes flickered over to Hermione, who was already walking out of the dungeons with a blonde Elvira trailing behind her. Realising that his chance for a useless attempt of an apology was squandered, he remained frozen and quiet on the spot, staring at the door as if she were waiting outside for him like she always did.
'You're playing yourself, Theo. As if she's out there waiting.'
A sudden black blur from the corner of his eye told him that he stood still for too long; he hastily rushed for the dungeon doors before Snape would have a chance to grab him. A faint calling of his last name was silenced as he already made it to the Entrance Hall and up to the common room.
Theodore, in all honesty, felt like a coward. There he was, not taking initiative to make up with his best friend whilst constantly dodging his own living godfather, in fear that he'd bring retribution upon him for taking the will. Although Snape had no proof, he knew. It was all too obvious. Perhaps Theodore was careless when he retrieved it; maybe Snape just speculated that he was the culprit. No matter what, he knew and Theodore was going to suffer for something. He just didn't know when.
"Theo! Thank god," huffed Neville as he ran to the Parselmouth the second he climbed through the portrait hole. He was fluttering a handful of parchments that seem to flail uncontrollably until most of them fell to the ground.
"Hey, Neville. Look, now is not a good time-"
"I'm not asking for your help! Well, I am, but I couldn't get all the notes from Potions, and well…" He leaned in to whisper in Theodore's ear, "Hermione seems pretty cross with something." That was true. Theodore could see from the other end of the room that the Muggle-born's brows were horizontal, almost on the verge of pointing downwards to form a scowl. Theodore could've sworn that she must've heard Neville as she looked up to the two boys, before turning her head away from them.
"Yeah, she does, doesn't she?" Theodore said, making an effort to hide the guilt in his voice.
"So? Can you help me, or…?"
Theodore sighed and walked into the centre of the common room, narrowly avoiding a pair of rampant first years. "I didn't make any notes in that lesson, but I'll write all the stuff that you'll need for that potion," said Theodore to Neville as the pudgy boy's spirits became lifted. Theodore told him that he was going to do the work in the corner so that he'd have an easier time to recall everything he knew. Leaving him to his devices, Neville regrouped with the others while Theodore brought out his writing equipment.
"The Confusing Concoction… I must've done this last year, I'm sure of it…" Every ounce of information: the method, the ingredients, the risks, all flowed from the back of the Parselmouth's memory, everything being jotted down as he remembered everything. It didn't take long for him to create a list of realistic notes for Neville to copy, and he was about to alert him that he was finished when he heard distinct hissing that was emanating from below the table.
"Viripin? What are you doing down here?" Theodore hissed quietly while lowering his head as if he dropped his quill.
"We need to talk. Now." The Maibian Adder's voice was stern and forceful, a tone that Viripin rarely adopted when she was with Theodore. Nevertheless, Theodore complied with the snake's wishes and left the parchment notes for Neville to collect as he scooped Viripin up, and walked up to the boys' dorm. After gently placing her on his bed, Viripin then elongated herself to match the boy's height as they were face to face.
"Is there a problem?"
"As a matter of fact, there is. Mind telling me what that is?" Viripin hissed as her black-tipped tail pointed at his pillow. Theodore was confused for a second, but instantly knew after remembering what he had hidden underneath there. He grabbed the will from its hiding place and frowned at the snake as he stuffed it in his pockets.
"Why were you looking through my stuff?"
"Why were you trying to hide it from me?"
"Trying to hide- what? I wasn't hiding it from anyone!"
"So I'm assuming that you already told Harry, Ron and Hermione, right?"
Theodore opened his mouth to speak, but then closed it upon realising that nothing worth saying was going to come out. He rubbed his face and brought out the crumpled will, throwing it on the bed as he sat next to Viripin sighing heavily.
"You read everything," asked the boy silently as he leaned his elbows against his thighs. Viripin nodded her head as she twisted her body to face him once more. "Sorry for not telling you. It was just doing my head in, I can't focus properly anymore. But it's not like this kind of thing ever happened before. This just feels… weird. I wanted to think about this properly before I'd tell anyone, but lately… no progress. Just still can't believe that he's my godfather."
Viripin took her time to speak again, to which she asked, "Why did your mother choose him? Didn't she know how much of a bad person Torturer was?"
"They were close friends, my mum and Snape. Must've stayed that way when she had me. She even defended him over her brother when they got into a fight. When he must've called Harry's mum a…" Theodore grimaced slightly at the word which he hated so much. It was like poison on his tongue. And to think he spewed such a slur so casually in the year before. He felt disgusted with himself. Even more with Snape. How could his mother defend-? He slapped his forehead and rubbed it to force Fudge's words out of his mind.
"It… It can't have been all that bad. I-I mean, there's some good stuff inside as well, like…" Viripin used her tail to grab the will and held it in front of her as she read through it quickly. "Look! Reaguls' Reality Group! I may not know a lot of people in the world, but certainly it's the Reaguls that we know about! They're keeping a house for you until you become seventeen! Who knows, you could even see Louise again!"
"I… guess so. But that's nearly four years away. I'll be lucky to even be alive by that time, with all the near-death experiences that I've been having so far," Theodore returned gloomily, smacking his back against the mattress as he stared at the tapestry above.
"Don't be such a downer, Theodore. Wait, I'll look for something else… Here! 'The expenses shall be covered by part of my inheritance from my parents, Fleamont and Euphemia Potter, and the rest shall be given to my child.' I'm betting on my life that you have a fortune as big as Harry's, maybe even bigger. No more borrowing from the school! Isn't that what you want?"
"Viripin, if I had an inheritance somewhere and it was just as big as Harry's fortune, don't you think I wouldn't have needed charity from the school in the first place? Maybe it's hidden; or somebody stole it; or- OW! Why d'you hit me for?!"
"For goodness sake, Theodore! Stop moping about and just say what's really bothering you! Seriously, I can't stand it when you're so… moody! Tell me what's wrong, right now." Theodore straightened himself as he caressed the back of his left hand. There was no use hiding anything from Viripin now. Not when she was barraging him with insistent overbearingness.
"Hermione's not talking to me because… well, this," said the boy as he fluttered the will before chucking it behind him again. "She wasn't already talking to Harry and Ron because of the whole 'Crookshanks and Scabbers' situation, and would always follow me around, but me being the dickhead that I am, just pushed her away because of this stupid will. And now, not only did I find out that Snape's my godfather, but I've also lost… her." Neither of them moved. Theodore was keeping his head low, hands clasped together until he felt a shiver around his neck as Viripin draped herself along his shoulders.
"Hey. You're overreacting. You didn't 'lose' Hermione. I can guarantee you that she'll forgive you if you just apologise."
"Don't you think I've been trying? She's always avoiding me every time I'd get close to her as if she doesn't want my apology. I could probably wave like a madman right in front of her and she wouldn't even blink." Viripin nuzzled against Theodore's temple, adamant on making him feel better. He brushed his fingertips along the centre of her head, knowing that all she wanted was his happiness. This affection was not expected at all, feeling that spitting and hissing were to be more appropriate, given whose name was inside the will.
"You must really like her to feel this guilty, huh?"
"Viripin, please. I'm trying to-"
"In a strictly, platonic, we're-best-friends, sort of way. Look, all you have to do is apologise and it'll be fine. You'll see. Both of you have soft spots for each other, there's no way that she won't forgive you. But know that the longer you leave it, the worse it may get, so I suggest you do it really soon."
Theodore scratched the right side of his neck, only able to agree with the Adder with a simple nod. He was going to have to apologise sooner or later; it was only a matter of time. But was Viripin right in thinking that the longer he left it, the more difficult it would be for Hermione to accept whatever he had to say to her? Surely, if she could overlook him being who he really was, then she'd forgive him for his idiocy, right?
'I am overthinking this. It's just Hermione. I'm an idiot to think that she'll stop talking to me forever. She'll forgive me. I'm sure that she'll forgive me…'
Theodore was doing an incredible job at retaining the accumulating frustration that came from his wasted efforts. It was as if the universe rejected Theodore's claims to regret, always managing to bestow minor inconveniences onto the boy whenever he'd try to apologise to Hermione. In retrospect, it had only been two days since he spoke with Viripin about it, yet he felt as if he was getting nowhere which was true. He'd see less of the Muggle-born each passing day, barely able to find her when classes were finished. Theodore refused to use the Marauder's Map to look for her, deeming that if he did, his motives would definitely be seen as alarming. All he wanted to do was to make amends and to leave it behind, was that too much to ask? Apparently so. Maybe he was forcing himself too much, just like when he wanted the will. Perhaps things would unravel on their own, out of the boy's reach. He hated that.
The air among Hogwarts was cool and clear as opposed to the extreme weather from the recent weeks. It'd been quite a while since Theodore had last seen a Quidditch match in its entirety, the cause of his absence mainly falling into breaking the rules elsewhere. An odd sensation of awaiting exhilaration was filling Theodore's stomach as he was very much interested in what Harry's new broom had to offer. A model like that was sure to outperform the others in the game, even much more so when Harry was flying. Theodore did his best to focus on the match so that he could set his problems aside for a few hours. He was allowed to do that, right?
"Been a while since you set foot in this place, huh?" Ron shouted over the noise of the supporters, which erupted from the Gryffindor stands to the Ravenclaw ones. Theodore was lucky that he was so close. Had he been an inch further from the red head, he'd be screaming his lungs out to respond back.
"Forever a stranger to this place. But at least I haven't been given any stupid detentions for today," Theodore replied as he loosened his scarlet and gold scarf to allow the cool breeze to brush against his sweaty neck.
"By the way, thanks for helping me with those notes," squeaked Neville from a row in front as he turned to talk to the two. "I really thought I'd be completely clueless about the final exam. Although, I still don't have that much of a good idea about- Oh hi, Elvira!"
Theodore and Ron panned their eyes to Elvira, whose hair remained the same all week. She too was clad in scarlet and gold, but had an additional hat to go with it. She greeted the three boys and looked forward onto the pitch where the teams started to roll out. While everyone began to applaud the teams as they took their positions on the ground, Theodore leaned forward and tapped the Metamorphmagus on her shoulder.
"Elvira, did Hermione come up here with you," asked Theodore in a loud 'whisper'.
"Umm… yes, she did come with me. She's over… over- The match is starting!" Theodore's eyes flickered to the pitch as the players began to rise on their broomsticks, Harry pelting off into the sky in a near instant. Theodore was nearly astonished. A Nimbus Two Thousand couldn't go that fast, and he only saw its performance a few times. A whistle from Madam Hooch rung across the stands, starting the game.
"It's a beautiful Spring's morning, the breeze is… astonishing. The sun's out, and we have Gryffindor vs Ravenclaw and my god, does that Firebolt look near-orgasmic!"
Sniggering and jokes aside, all eyes were on the players as they zoomed and streaked through the air, chasing and escaping the balls that were released into the air with them. Theodore was still awed by Harry's speed on the Firebolt as he witnessed a magnificent increase in acceleration, nearly losing him in the amidst of the match.
"Look at that speed! Theo, are you seeing this?!" Ron asked excitedly, squeezing Theodore's shoulder as he followed Harry in the air.
"Did you see that dive," added Neville, who decided to move up a row just to grab Theodore's other shoulder, rocking him uncontrollably as he jumped up and down.
"I could, if you guys would let go of my-"
"Goal for Gryffindor, after Katie Bell puts one in through Ravenclaw hoops! The Quaffles are back in play as the Keeper passes- Look on, everyone! Potter and Chang are making the dive for, what seems to be, the Snitch!"
Theodore, along with the rest of the Gryffindors, leaned forwards near the edge of the stand, all wanting to snatch a glimpse of the possible game-winner beneath them. Harry had caught the Snitch in less than five minutes before; there's no telling what he could do now. The narrow misses with the rampant Bludgers; the dangerous dives that made the game all the more interesting: it was just exhilarating. Even McGonagall was on the edge.
"Ravenclaw scores twice, making the score sixty points to thirty! Angelina easily evades the Bludger sent at her, absolutely flawless in her attack, but then again, when isn't she flawless? Her skin is- alright, Professor! I'll stop." Lee ignored the nasty stare from McGonagall as he continued to commentate the match, cheering along with his House as Gryffindor scored another point.
"We're winning, but it's not over yet," shouted Ron above the slowly dying cheers. "They can still win if they catch the Snitch. They've got to play it safe, otherwise…"
"Harry's going for the Snitch again, look!"
Theodore watched Harry pelting downwards with the Ravenclaw Seeker tailing him closely, only to be left behind when Harry made a sharp turn upwards. He rose slowly above the Chasers and Beaters, darting his head all around until he broke into another dive. The Ravenclaw Seeker chased him again, causing everyone to lower their eyes as they saw Harry shoot up once more. Everyone's eyes were up in the sky to follow the chase for the Snitch. All eyes, except Theodore's.
'What… is that?'
They looked like tiny specks of dirt from where he was standing, barely able to even follow their moments. Theodore focused on the unknown figures that were waddling across the grounds of the pitch while doing his best to block out the screams from the other Gryffindors. Ron didn't notice that the Parselmouth had moved away from him, still slapping his palms together as Oliver made a brilliant save. Theodore narrowed his eyes, his vision so thin that he could barely see; the idea of what he was looking at seeming quite incomprehensible upon further thinking.
'What type of Dementor walks like that? Idiot, Dementors don't walk, they glide! Why am I still thinking about this?"
"Everyone look! Dementors on the ground, right over there," Theodore shouted, pointing at the three hooded figures that were approaching the centre of the field. Everyone scrambled over to the edge once more to see if he was telling the truth. Lavender and Parvati gasped while all the boys of Gryffindor waved madly at McGonagall for her attention in the closest stand.
"Can she not see us? We're trying to warn her about flipping Dementors, yet she's going off at Lee!"
"Quick, Seamus! Use your wand to get her attention," suggested Theodore as he kept his eyes on the moving Dementors, feeling that there was something off about them.
"Use your wand, there's no way I'm using mine!"
"It's a life and death- you know what? Forget it. I'll do it myself. So much for-"
"Expecto Patronum…!" Theodore barely had a finger to his wand as he heard Harry's voice bellowing an incantation that he never heard before in his life. From the depths of the game, a faint silvery-white light became sudden with intensity as it shone brightly, momentarily, before vanishing. It was short, very quick and Theodore didn't understand what the hell happened. All he saw were three black figures squirming on the ground and Harry zooming away from the scene with a hand outstretched. Theodore was still dazed for even the final whistle did nothing to break him out of his silent wonderment.
"Gryffindor wins! Potter ends the game on his terms, his Seeker skills nearing to legend! How does he do it? How?!" Lee screamed with so much enthusiasm, you'd think his throat would rupture at any second.
Ron led the charge onto the field where the players landed after celebrating in mid-air. All the Gryffindors from the stands fell into a full-blown sprint, surrounding Harry in an instant as he was hoisted on Fred and George's shoulders.
"What did I tell you? What did I tell you," shouted Ron as he managed to grab hold onto Harry despite the other supporters' jubilance. Theodore didn't bother to try gain Harry's attention as it was useless above everybody else's screams, but did his best to show his congratulation.
Harry couldn't help but grin madly at his first victory with his new broom. The Nimbus Two Thousand felt like nothing to the Firebolt; it was nothing compared to the Firebolt. He felt too high to be brought down by anything. The sheer joy that he was feeling was simply immeasurable. It was all too much.
Harry finally dropped down to ground level upon seeing Theodore's face in the tight crowd, pushing his way through to sling an arm around his cousin's neck.
"You really hit those Dementors hard, Harry. I'm just curious about what the hell you actually did to them," Theodore spoke in Harry's ear as they brought their heads together to talk quietly under the noise.
"Wait, something that Theodore Riddle has no knowledge about? Is this real life," Harry retorted as Theodore elbowed him in the stomach. "Alright, alright! I won't tell you here, but I can-"
"DETENTION, DETENTION, DETENTION, DETENTION!"
Theodore turned his attention to McGonagall's furious shrieks from the centre of the field. Everyone held back the hugging and screams to follow the livid professor as she loomed above four struggling hooded figures who were kicking themselves on the ground. Crabbe and Goyle's husky bodies were easy to discern under the tangled cloaks, and Draco's muffled shouts could be heard underneath Crabbe. Flint was the final Slytherin masquerading as Dementors while the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws, who seemed to forget their loss, joined together in fits of laughter at the four.
"I guess we found your Dementors," said Theodore to Harry, whose expression was stuck between disappointment and amusement.
"Goyle, get your foot out of my- GOYLE!"
The cheers still led on into the common room that day. Victory was strong within Gryffindor Tower as they couldn't help themselves but to celebrate their first win of the year, not giving a single care as to who they disturbed. It was only fair, right? The House had never been in such higher spirits. They felt as if it were over, as if they were champions. With Harry's new broomstick (and consequently, his winning catch), the Gryffindor Quidditch team were certain that nothing could stand in their way. They would be the ones to hoist that Cup high above everyone's heads at the end of the year. Them.
Theodore, however, was feeling slightly less joyous than his fellow Gryffindors. Huddling up with Lavender and Parvati on either side, followed by five other people occupying the same sofa as well, along with great annoyance aimed at himself, tended to put you in a bad mood. At least Lavender and Parvati weren't talking to him. Not by a lot anyways.
"That catch was brilliant, wasn't it, Parvati?" Lavender chattered in his right ear while she looked at Parvati on his other side.
"That dive was… whoo! Harry certainly put Ravenclaw in their place with his new Firebolt," Parvati returned as her nose literally brushed against Theodore's cheek, causing him to move his head away in annoyance. He had no idea why he chose to sit in between the two. Listening to them squealing to each other on a casual day was bad enough. Having them right in your ears was a whole different story.
And it continued like that until the day led into the evening, and the evening into the night. Theodore would occasionally swivel his head out of boredom to give subtle glances to Hermione, who was working furiously hard, from the front of the common room. He'd sometimes catch himself staring a little more than he needed to, swearing to himself that she shot a stare back before turning to face the fire once again. His objective to apologise to her was faltering as he saw no outcome where he would succeed. Hermione didn't want his apology at all; it was fruitless.
The noise was slowly starting to dwindle as the time rolled by. The twins were merrily toasting to the Quidditch team, ignoring Percy's shrill shut ups as they clanked their Butterbeer bottles together. Lavender and Parvati were still at it with their boorish chatter drilling into Theodore's ears who still didn't move from his spot. He carried on questioning himself as to why he was still sitting there when Harry had walked off, and when Ron was flipping bottles in the corner with Dean and Seamus. He was supposed to be over this a long time ago; he didn't want to be sprawling all over the couch with Lavender and Parvati, feeling dejected every time he'd think about Hermione. It was pathetic on his part and he was going to settle this.
"Where're you going, Theo," asked Parvati quite loudly as Theodore stood up quickly. "We were just talking about teacups and crystal balls. Would you-"
Theodore held out his hand and said, "No thanks. I've lost any interest in what Trelawney has to offer for us, especially me."
"Professor Trelawney," gritted Lavender through her teeth. "Just because you're good at every other subject, doesn't mean that you can put down Divination, Theo. There are intricate meanings and hidden complexities in Divination, you know."
Theodore scoffed while he rolled his eyes. "Like what? Name me one hidden complexity, Lavender, I dare you."
"Well, for one thing-" She puffed up her chest to release a long breath of nonsense to the uncaring Parselmouth, but all that was heard was her blood-curdling scream, followed by Parvati's. Theodore followed their gazes up towards the ceiling and saw the sight which could've frightened him a little if he had no knowledge of what he was seeing.
"S-S-SNAKE! SP-SPIDER SNAKE! ON THE CEILING, RIGHT OVER THERE! IT'S GOING TO KILL-"
"Oh, shut up, Lavender!" Theodore scolded as he pushed past the two to stand right beneath the Maibian Adder who had gained the body of an arachnid while keeping some of her reptilian features, such as her head and tail. Several people gave choked gasps as they saw Viripin scaling along the ceiling so quickly, gasping once again if it seemed as if she was about to spring from the walls.
Viripin flicked her tongue eerily as she glared at every single Gryffindor in the common room with an odd gleam of satisfaction in her chrome eyes. She was enjoying the worry, the rapidly increasing fear in each one of them that practically stunk off them. But she wasn't there to hold contempt towards them for almost banishing her from the Tower. In one swift lunge, the snake shot straight towards Theodore at such a great speed, wrapping herself around him as Lavender fainted from getting too close to Viripin.
"Look at what your snake did, it killed her," Parvati said accusingly, though she seemed to be more focused on reviving the unconscious girl rather than to berate the boy.
"Stop it. She's not dead. And Viripin's harmless, it's not her fault that Lavender is afraid of snakes," Theodore said in an unintentionally haughty tone. Parvati gave him one last look of disapproval and tutted before she went back to fanning Lavender.
The murmurs rose steadily with a few of the others still looking at Theodore as if he was about to order Viripin to attack. Theodore was quite shocked to find that nobody had made a rumour about him being a Parselmouth when clearly all the evidence was there. Not even a single mention of him and his snake. Theodore was secretly disappointed, but had to remind himself of how much he'd hate to be in the spotlight. Harry was already famous enough. Without thinking for a second about the other Gryffindors who seemed to have suppressed some fear to come closer to the two, and somewhat withholding the prospect of his apology coming into light, Theodore simply flung Viripin's thick tail around his other shoulder like a scarf and vanished up the boys' stairway.
"Have you apologised to Hermione yet," hissed Viripin quietly in his ear as she settled herself near Theodore's left shoulder. The party had long since died from McGonagall's late-night (or should I say early-morning) intrusion, forcing the celebrating House to their beds. Theodore, having gone straight up a while before the others, had shut some of the tapestries on the side so that he and Viripin could speak in private. Not an easy task to accomplish when you had five other roommates whose energy was spent entirely on talking about Quidditch. Alas, the chattering subsided into peaceful snores which allowed Theodore to speak more freely to Viripin, keeping their hissing to a minimum.
"I'll get around to it." Theodore turned his head to look at the snake more clearly as her eyes seemingly illuminated the closed-off four poster bed from the inside. "Don't give me that look."
"What look? I'm not giving you any type of look."
"It's not as easy as you make it out to be, Viripin," Theodore muttered as he sat upright, eyes still locked with the Adder's. "Every time I try to come up to her, she either walks off or just vanishes. You know, I even think she's using the Time-Turner to avoid me."
"This never would've happened if you had just let her tag along with you to Snape's-"
"Don't you think I know that," snapped the Parselmouth as he tussled his hair roughly for it to flop over his eyes. "She's just being difficult." He didn't dare add for no reason at the end. Viripin merely brushed it off and rested her head on Theodore's lap, her eyes looking more expressive than Theodore had ever seen from her before.
"Do you want to talk about anything else? How about the match? They won, right?"
Theodore simply nodded and hauled her entire body gently onto his lap so that he could have a better hold on her. His mind wandered back to when he asked Elvira Hermione's whereabouts; about how she was supposedly present when he couldn't see her at all. He briefly slapped his forehead repeatedly to force her out of his mind, eager to think about the other parts of the match.
"Was Harry's catch really that spectacular?" Viripin questioned, still keeping her calm tone of voice with the Parselmouth.
"It was more than spectacular! Viripin, you should've seen the way Harry was using the Firebolt! That was probably the best match that I've seen, although that's not saying much since I've only seen two. I could watch that final dive forever! And also, the Dementors came around again, only they weren't actually Dementors. I swear, the things that Draco does sometimes…"
"Theodore? What's wrong, Theodore?" Viripin asked the boy who suddenly grew silent in the dark. She didn't need to flick her tongue to smell the rapid heat that was escaping the boy's pores; to feel his heart shifting his ribs at each thunderous beat. His short breaths told her instantly that he was scared, but of what? "Theodore? Theodore, why aren't you speaking? Please, tell me what's wrong with-"
"Theodore…?" Viripin's voice sounded broken and rough for the boy's fear had infected her as well. She slowly began to sink into Theodore's lap as Theodore could feel her broad head shaking disturbingly like she was going mad. Neither of them spoke a single word, plummeting further into Fear's grasp as they heard the Grim's revolting snarls; snarls that were burned into the Parselmouth and Maibian Adder's memory so well. It was probably waiting for him, luring him out so that it wouldn't have to ravage the bed in the process of ripping his head off.
"Viripin," Theodore whispered as softly as possible, guiding his left hand slowly underneath his pillow to retrieve his wand, "Stay put. Do not move and do not say anything." He clasped his fingers around his wand, gripping it tightly as he shifted an obedient Viripin to the side. Theodore did his best to keep his wand steady knowing that he couldn't afford to drop it out of his hand. If he did, then… a complete bloodbath in Gryffindor Tower.
He stuck out his bare feet out from the opposite side of the bed from where the Grim supposedly was, slipping his slim frame through the tapestry as his wand was kept still in his hand. 'What the fuck am I doing,' he asked himself, 'trying to fight a Grim?!' Theodore couldn't believe that he was still capable of cohesive thoughts at that moment. He was certain that his body would shut down any minute-
All he could see was those white soulless eyes that should've been haunting his dreams. They glowed devilishly against the backdrop of the blackened room, giving the impression that its being was only composed of a pair of eyes and nothing more. But he knew it was there, hidden, stalking him like the predator it was. Theodore could even see some of its matted filthy fur glistening against the moonlight which penetrated the windows that were above Ron's four poster bed… Ron's bed…
The eyes evaporated into nothingness as the next thing that the Parselmouth heard were sounds of violent slashing that was cutting through fabric so viciously. In an instant, Theodore lifted his wand and bellowed "Lumos," using his free hand to shield his eyes as the tip of his wand created a light so powerful that his eyes seared with pain. But he wasn't the only one that was affected by his wand's near-blinding casting. He heard a series of yelps and screams; the floorboard trembled as considerable weight crashed onto the floor. The yelps and screams carried on further, but something was wrong… Those shouts of agony; they didn't sound like the Grim at all. It sounded like… a man.
Theodore's wand-tip snuffed itself soon after, like it heard its master's pain within his mind, refusing to damage the boy any further. His eyes burned profusely at every blink; he clamped his eyelids firmly shut while avoiding the pain. Better than keeping his eyes open; his wand had only gone and blinded him in a time of need. Theodore spun around to hear silent murmurs from Seamus on his right, Neville's splutters of confusion from the far end of the room, and-
"ARRRRGGHHHH! BLACK! SIRIUS BLACK'S HERE! HELP ME! HEEEELLLPPPP!"
Theodore used his sleeves to rub his tearful eyes, trying to ignore the burning pain that came from his wand as he scrunched his face to clear his vision. Ron was screaming his head off in the corner; he could see that from the moonlight that was coming in. His hair was heavily blurred, but still recognisable. Theodore quickly turned back to where the Grim should've been, keeping his sore eyes trained onto the shadows where the eyes used to be when he saw something lank and spidery blazing towards him, something obscure being swung around until he felt horrific pain stinging across his face, followed by the figure crashing straight into him. Theodore's back smacked the ground hard, but all he could think about, or rather feel, was his face.
"Ron! Why are you screaming, Ron, it's two in the morn- OH MY GOD!" A soft orange light that passed through Theodore's closed eyelids darkened as people were frantically gathering around him, grabbing his arm painfully as they dragged him up to his feet.
"Oh, shit! Shit, Theodore!" Ron shrieked as he jumped out of his bed, ignoring the very faint pattering of feet that came from the spiral stairway. Ron came bounding to his best friend as his face looked completely horrified.
"Whad issit," slurred Theodore as he struggled to keep his balance. His face was burning furiously and he could barely think straight from his fall to the floor. "Whad's wrong?"
"Theo… your fa-face…" Harry stammered as he looked at his cousin with the same amount of horror as Ron. "Somebody get McGonagall! Now!" Theodore heard Dean dashing out of the dorm room as the remaining four boys supported the staggering boy down the steps and into an armchair.
"Where's Veerip? Where… where is she? She safe…?"
"Stop talking, man. Here, put this on your face," said Harry shakily as he procured a white cloth which he firmly placed in Theodore's hand. Theodore ignored the gesture, and ran his fingers across his face, drawing back instantly as the pain burned even more.
"Why is… why is my face burning, Harry? Why is my… I'm bleeding." That was an understatement. Theodore looked down to his pyjama shirt and saw that there was an equal distribution of blue fabric, and crimson liquid. He wasn't just bleeding. He was pouring. His composure and realisation returned and exploded within him. He jumped up to his feet hysterically telling everyone that he saw the Grim in the dorm, and that it must've attacked him when they were sleeping.
"We're not safe! Everyone get the fuck out of here! Did you warn the girls? Why didn't you tell them?! What if it broke into their dorm?!" Theodore screamed as he pelted to the entrance of the girls' stairway. "WAKE UP! SIRIUS BLACK IS IN THE TOWER! WAKE UP! WAKE-"
Theodore was dragged backwards until he became face to face with Harry once again, who lost his previous expression behind.
"Stay calm! Your face is sliced up and you're only making it worse, Theo! Just stay put until McGonagall gets here, alright? Please!" Theodore was about to argue back when the sounds of the Gryffindor girls coming down the stairs, and the portrait door opening before slamming again silenced him. Professor McGonagall swept into the room with an imposing presence while Dean entered after her. Theodore half-expected her to start screaming at them to go back to sleep when he was met by something rather different.
"Mr Riddle! Wh-what happened to you," McGonagall stammered as she rushed to the bleeding boy's side in a second. All the girls gasped at the sight of his injury, inciting the boy to ask for a mirror. Nobody responded, naturally angering him until McGonagall silenced him.
"I-It was Sirius Black! Here, in the Tower! I saw him with my own two eyes, standing over my bed with a knife!" Ron babbled. For somebody who wasn't attacked, Ron looked a lot more shaken than Theodore.
McGonagall looked skeptical of the red head's claims of the break-in, darting her head back and forth until she asked Theodore, "Is this true? Did Black do this to you?"
"I… I think so, I mean… Can I please just have a mirror so that I can look at myself?" Theodore pleaded. His face was still burning madly, and his head was pounding so loud he could barely hear McGonagall asking everyone how Black entered the common room exactly. Why the hell wasn't she warning Dumbledore; he could've caught him while he was still in the castle!
"I think it would be best if you go to the hospital- thank you, Potter- wing immediately. I'll alert Professor Dumbledore of this."
"But what about us," shouted Seamus from the back. "What's stopping Black from breaking back into the Tower again?"
"I'd be most thankful if you lowered your voice, Finnigan," snapped McGonagall as she handed Theodore the bloodied cloth to clear away the blood. "Now, I'm sure that that useless painting must've had a hand in this. You are to remain here until I return from the hospital wing to question you all. A result of somebody's foolishness no less. Come along, Riddle."
Theodore was slowly being guided to the portrait hole by McGonagall, who seemed to be terrified by the thought that he'd collapse after an alarming loss of blood. He insisted that he was okay, but didn't dare argue to stay in the Tower. It felt a lot less safer anyways. All that he could think about was Viripin and how he didn't see her when Black, supposedly, slashed his face with a knife. "A complete fucking psycho he is," thought Theodore to himself. Before he climbed through the hole, Theodore briefly turned back to his fellow Gryffindors to see all of their faces, all full of fear and sympathy. All of them displayed the same emotion, but he was only looking for one. One person. And he found them.
Hermione was situated near the back of the crowd, hidden mostly behind the twins. Fred and George towered above her, and were doing a decent job at obscuring her face until they parted for just a second, a single second to allow Theodore's eyes to take in the redness in her face; the quivering of her lips and the mist that was forming in her eyes. But it only lasted for one second.
Suddenly, the comforting warmth from the common room vanished as he followed McGonagall briskly along the corridors to the hospital wing. Theodore dabbed his face repeatedly; Hermione's face so clear in his mind; the blurred image of Black attempting to stab his face branding his memory, and those pale white eyes which belonged to that accursed Grim that vanished right before Black started to…
"Not looking so pretty now, are you, Theo-Weo?"
And of course, Black's attack in Gryffindor Tower had leaked its way to the rest of the school in a matter of hours; the story about Ron and Theodore never wavered from the truth. From the moment when Theodore was nearly killed in a single motion and Ron screamed his lungs out, to the entire House being stuck within the common room for hours until they were given the all clear. Yes, this was the quickest bit of news to spread in Hogwarts for quite a while now ever since Harry was outed as a Parselmouth. The pair's names rung to each corner of the castle; the speculation between the students being heard to all but Theodore.
"Can I take this off now? My face doesn't hurt anymore," Theodore grumbled annoyingly as he tried to peel off a bubbly purple face mask which smelt absolutely putrid. He yelped as he felt a stinging pain on the back of his hand, and drew it back to caress it with an angry glare being sent to Madam Pomfrey.
"For the umpteenth time, stop touching your face! You'll make it worse! Here, your final Blood-Replenishing Potion dosage." Madam Pomfrey shoved a small goblet full of blood-red liquid that swirled viscously inside. She then turned around to fumble through her robes as she ignored the boy's spluttering until she found what she had been looking for. A simple swish and a mutter, and the mask on Theodore ripped itself from his face and bubbled into nothing as the Parselmouth winced.
"Finally," he spoke under his breath while rubbing his sore face. From what he saw the night before in a mirror, the gash led from above his right eyebrow, down across the bridge of his nose as Black dug in deep enough for it to nearly come off, and ended beneath his left ear from across his cheek. He could barely recognise himself, grimacing whenever he'd lightly tap against the wound. Was not a pretty sight at all. But he wasn't all too worried, knowing that Madam Pomfrey had dealt with a lot worse in the past.
"Don't be sly with me, Riddle, I heard that. You're lucky that the wound didn't turn quickly into scars. Wouldn't want to go lose your good-looks before you're seventeen now, will you?"
Theodore carried on prodding his face to check for anything out of the ordinary. "It's alright now? I don't have to stay here anymore?" he asked as he stood up gingerly. Theodore didn't know how much blood he lost earlier on, but he knew that it was enough to make him nearly faint from times to times.
"Lessons are nearly over, so you can wait-"
"But my face is fine!"
"Mr Riddle, you've just been attacked by an Azkaban escapee! Do not think that I'll be so idiotic into letting you out of my sight so quickly!" Madam Pomfrey returned as she magicked her remedy cart into thin air.
"Didn't they say that Black was nowhere to be seen in the castle? There's nothing that he can-" Theodore was cut off by the sounds of the hospital wing doors slamming against the walls as Harry and Ron guiltily paced towards the Parselmouth quickly. The faint ringing of the bells told Theodore that the last lesson had finished. The matron flicked her head and grunted at the boy to let him leave. Theodore quickly changed into his Muggle clothes and walked out with his friends into the packed hallways.
"Madam Pomfrey is a miracle-worker," said Ron, awing at Theodore's face as they weaved through a crowd of first-years. "Parts of your face was just hanging off, I was certain that it was unfixable!"
"I didn't even know how bad it was until I saw myself in the mirror. Just disgusting. I've seen worst, but disgusting."
"At least this gives us more of a reason to get back at Black," muttered Harry grimly as they descended a flight of stone steps. Theodore could see Harry's knuckles whitening as his fist was held very tightly. But he didn't care, in fact, he felt the same way. This guy might've been a follower of his father, but he gave no indication that he knew who Theodore was. Or maybe he did. Perhaps being stuck in Azkaban would unhinge most people with Dementors crawling down your-
"…is a fucking nutcase! A bloody hunting knife, Harry! A hunting knife that was at least a foot long! Lucky that Theodore knew what was up, because I could've been chopped up into-"
All that Ron could see was a blur as Theodore raced in front of them as if he attempted to ditch the pair. Ron called out to him to which he replied, "I'll see you two in the common room later! I just need to do something really quickly!" Theodore didn't hear any sounds of ruffling robes becoming louder as well as side-aching panting. Good. It was better if he was alone.
'I know you saw me. No point trying to get away because I know.'
It was like in the common room again; a brief look at each other before the other would break away. Hermione was holding a stack of books to her chest with the Time-Turner being flashed for a moment. She was scurrying away upon eye contact; her eyes widened when she saw Theodore at the other end of the corridor, looking well and healed. But she still scurried. Not this time. The Parselmouth weaved, slipped, and pushed through the other students to follow as she made a sharp left towards the grounds where Hagrid's Hut resided. Theodore was almost about to make the turn when he felt a rough hand squeezing his shoulder to keep him in place. The hand was strong and powerful, not losing a bit of its grip as the boy spun around to become face to face with him.
"Why in such a hurry, Riddle?" said Snape in such a malign manner that Theodore was sure that he was about to snap his shoulder.
"Uh… I-I have to-"
"To what? To waltz along the castle floors like you have no weight on your shoulders; to chase after your friends? Surely you're above all of that."
Theodore swallowed painfully, not allowing the grip on his shoulder to get to him as he spoke strongly, "Professor, I need to be somewhere else if you would like to let go, then-"
"Oh, I'm aware of that," said Snape once again in a dangerously soft voice. "Potions, remember? Your duties?" Theodore opened his mouth to speak, but Snape cut him off with an open palm. "Come along, Riddle. We have much to discuss with each other."
Snape then roughly turned Theodore's body away from the pathway to Hagrid's Hut as the Parselmouth saw Hermione's hair disappear into the half-giant's home before being ripped away from that vision. The hallways were mostly cleared out of students with a few stragglers leaning against the wall, pointing and hissing when they saw the Potion Master with him. Hagrid's Hut felt like miles away when they finally arrived in Snape's classroom. Theodore stepped inside and stood silently, feeling the sudden gusts of air hitting him as Snape frantically darted across the room searching for something in various draws. From the look on his face souring even more every passing second, Theodore presumed that he couldn't find what he was looking for.
"…and I've been wasting this lunar phase for his blasted potion. I'll need another batch by tomorrow," Snape muttered to himself as he sat in his chair behind his desk. He parted some of his hair to burn his black gaze into Theodore from the other side of classroom, as if he was trying to break him down from merely glancing at him.
"Come here." Theodore didn't move a muscle, his heart still racing too fast. Snape repeated his instruction much louder which prompted the boy to trudge to the desk. Theodore had his hands clasped to his sides as he stood right in front of the slightly chipped wooden desk that belonged to his own godfather. He still couldn't believe it.
'Don't think about that, don't think about that, don't think about that…'
"Do you know why I brought you here, Riddle?" Theodore shook his head slightly. Snape leaned forwards with his fingertips pressed together and his elbows resting on his desk. "You know, I never thought of you as one belonging to Gryffindor, but it seems that I've been proven wrong. You've clearly picked up on their arrogance, no less mainly from Potter-"
"You didn't tell me why you brought me here," interjected Theodore as a spike of anger ran through his head. Snape instantly shot up from his seat and bared his teeth, showing that he was seething with so much anger.
'Don't think about that, don't think about that…'
"Do you think that you're so clever as to deceive me? A man who has walked through this castle longer than you've ever known of the existence of magic? Did you think that I wouldn't notice?!"
"I don't know what you're talking-"
"Silence!" snapped Snape as he brought his face closer to Theodore's. "Do not try to evade me, Riddle. I know what you did. You can't keep that stupid face up forever, trust me. I'll know."
"Know what, professor?" Theodore asked monotonously. Snape looked like he was about to explode, but kept himself in check. All of that potent anger was used in his venomous glare as his eyes refused to look anywhere else but Theodore's.
'Don't think about that…'
"Where… Is… Her will?" Snape gritted through his teeth with his jaw trembling slightly.
"Your mother's will! Where is her will, your mother's will," shouted Snape as he slammed his palms against his desk with his cheeks flushed in pure lividity. Theodore didn't flinch for he knew that if he did, he'd lose.
"I don't know what you're talking about, pro-"
Snape plucked his wand from the insides of his robes and held it in his fingers tightly. Theodore eyed his wand hand carefully, watching him lift his wand up so that he could curse him, but that wasn't the case at all. Instead, Snape pointed his wand at the half-empty Wolfsbane cauldron, and muttered "Revelio!" The tip of his wand emitted a faint golden light, but didn't produce anything that was possibly hidden.
"Now what do you see," hissed Snape as he pocketed his wand.
"And why's that?"
Theodore glanced over to the cauldron, then back to Snape who followed the boy's line of vision as if it was crucial to keep his eyes on him. "Well obviously, nothing was there to begin with." Snape sucked in a lungful of air through his nose as his rage detonated, only to be smothered by the deafening knocks on the door.
"What is it?! What do you want, who's there?!"
'Please be Dumbledore, please be Dumbledore…'
"Could yer be a bit helpful an' open the door fer me, please?" Theodore's heart leapt as he heard Hagrid's voice booming from the other side of the door. Hagrid was just as good as Dumbledore and he didn't care as long as he was far away from here.
"What do you want, Hagrid," Snape asked irritably as he slowly sat back down again with suppressed anger. "I'm in the middle of something."
"If yer don' mind me askin', but is Theo in there with yeh?" Hagrid asked thoughtfully without a clue of what just happened on the other side.
"What's it to you?"
"Nothin' tha' is too importan'. Jus need 'im fer a couple 'o minutes."
"If it holds no importance, then it can wait. In the meantime, I-"
"If yeh wan' ter know, 's fer Dumbledore. 'Eadmaster needs 'im at once, sir," Hagrid replied happily. Theodore wasn't sure if the sudden tremors was because that he was being liberated from whatever Snape had in store for him and his heart was beating profusely; or if it was just Hagrid rocking on his feet.
Snape stared at the door distastefully. Theodore knew that he was hating Hagrid so much at that moment for being an aid to Theodore's 'flawless' evasiveness. By this point, it was just downright embarrassment. The Potions Master leaned back in his chair and brought two fingers to his right temple. There was so much madness within his eyes that Theodore had to commend him secretly for managing to retain it all. Oh well. It was his fault for having such a poor choice in concealment. The Parselmouth slowly backed away and left the classroom swiftly without so much as looking over his shoulder.
"Hiya, Theo! Now, I just-"
"Shhhh!" Theodore made sure that the door was closed and pushed against Hagrid to show that he wanted them out of the dungeons. Hagrid understood and walked off with Theodore trailing behind him, making sure that Snape wouldn't burst out of his classroom in a fit of rage. Once they reached the Entrance Hall, Hagrid then turned to the boy who didn't cut him off this time.
"How are yeh, Theo? I 'eard abou' what 'append to yeh, and well… I 'ad ter see yeh fer meself, see?" Hagrid spoke as they began to walk off at a slower pace than before.
"Thanks, Hagrid. And I'm fine, really. I just want to thank you for getting me out of there," said Theodore before mumbling, "Didn't know what I was going to do if you came a second afterwards.
Hagrid furrowed his thick eyebrows as he stopped the both of them. "Whadya mean? Why did Snape have yeh in 'is classroom?"
"You know how he is. Probably doesn't like me that much because I'm friends with Harry."
"Look ou' fer yerself, yeh listenin' ter me? Jus don' cause any trouble, 'specially with Snape."
"When have you ever known me to cause trouble," remarked Theodore with a cheeky grin. All that Hagrid could do was shake his head as he cracked a large smile through his massive beard as they pressed on through the castle. It was only until three minutes later did Theodore realise something.
"Hagrid, I thought that we were going to Professor Dumbledore's office. We're still on the first floor."
"Ahh. Alrigh', alrigh'. Yeh got me." Hagrid halted once again as he began to explain his entire situation to Theodore. "I don' if yeh 'eard abou' Buckbeak the-"
"Hippogriff. The one which attacked Draco during your- That one, yes. I know about Buckbeak."
"Well, I've bin doin' me best ter create a thumpin' counter agains' Buckbeak's case fer a while now. The whole 'court' idea was never really my cup o' tea. Always seem ter get meself inter those. Anyway, Imma be straigh' with yeh. I don' think wha' I got is any good and I'm gonna need all the help I can get. Yeh're the brainies' kid I know, other than 'Ermione. Would yeh…? Or no…?"
"Of course I'll help, Hagrid! Anything you need!" Theodore replied happily, earning a joyful beaming face from Hagrid. The half-giant wiped away a tear and patted Theodore straight to the solid ground.
"Yeh're a good kid, Theo. Can' thank yeh enough."
"That's alright," sniffed the boy as he masked the pain on his shoulder and back. "So, do you want my help now, or…?"
"Don' yeh have extra classes ter be workin' on? 'Ermione looks like she's abou' ter go crazy with her workload!"
Theodore let out a stifled laugh and said, "Actually, no. My schedule's pretty open most days. We can go now if you want." Hagrid agreed and the two made their way to the gamekeeper's home. Theodore was willing to do anything that would stop him from going back to Snape's. And maybe this whole case thing would take his mind off-
"Speakin' abou' 'Ermione, 'ow are yeh gettin' along, the pair of yeh?" Hagrid asked as they bustled across the field that was near the Forbidden Forest. Theodore immediately felt tense and placed his hands in his pockets, but didn't show any sign of uneasiness.
"Erm… We're… I wouldn't say that 'getting along' are the correct words to use here, but-" Theodore was cut off when Hagrid brought his wheel-sized palms up. They were somewhat near Hagrid's front door, and something seemed to be moving inside. Theodore tiptoed slightly to catch sight of this, but his attention was brought back to Hagrid.
"I know abou' the little rut tha' the four of yeh are goin' through righ' now," confessed Hagrid as he crossed his arms.
"You know? But how? Harry and Ron couldn't have told-" His head whipped towards the door as he suddenly remembered who visited him nearly an hour ago. Theodore took a large step towards Hagrid and whispered, "Is she in there?"
"Uh huh. Yeh bet she's in there. Bin visitin' me a lot these days. Always lookin' so tired and worn out. 'Spect it's 'cause o' her work an' whatever's 'appening between yeh lot. 'Specially yeh, Theo."
Theodore couldn't even bring himself to groan this time. How much longer was this going to last? He kept his hands in his pockets and carried on listening to what Hagrid had to say, no matter how much he wanted to just walk off with his fingers in his ears.
"She seemed ter be really upset ever since yeh stopped talkin' ter her. Real upset. Almos' on the verge of cryin' on me shoulder. She was already feelin' lonely when she only 'ad yeh and Elvira ter talk ter. Felt even worse when it seemed like yeh resented her as well by shovin' her away. She came ter me on tha' day, still almos' on the verge of cryin', but she didn't. Kep' tough, workin' 'ard while helpin' with Buckbeak. Tha' was until an hour ago. Completely broke down inter tears when she heard abou' what happened ter yeh yes'rday. Said she felt like she was a bad friend fer ignoring yeh."
"But she wasn't a bad friend," Theodore cried. "I was! She had every right to ignore me!"
"Tha's what I said, no offence. Said she doesn' have to worry abou' yeh tha' much, yeh'll live. Didn' stop the wa'erworks by tha' much. She cares abou' you a lot, Theo."
"But I'm still a bad friend. I've been trying to apologise to her ever since, but I don't think she wants to hear any of it."
Hagrid waved his hand aside as his face grew into a grin to reassure the Parselmouth. "Nonsense, 'Ermione couldn', an' wouldn' hate yeh at all! Look, here's yer chance ter set things straight. Jus go in, an' everythin' will be okay. Besides, yeh promised yeh'd help me today."
Theodore closed his eyes to envision exactly what he was going to say to Hermione when he'd open that door. It seemed that guilt had stolen his ability to create the excuses that he'd pull from thin air. Taking in a deep breath; then breathing back out again, the boy gripped the large handle of Hagrid's front door and pushed his way inside.
"You're back, Hagrid? I think I found something that could-" Hermione squealed and covered her mouth quickly when she saw him walking through the door. A thick red book and a small stack of used parchments dropped to the ground, but neither child made any notice of this. They both just looked at each other, or at least tried to. Theodore's eyes were focused on Buckbeak who was, for some reason, in the back of the hut while Hermione placed her gaze on the entering half-giant.
"Brough' some extra help, jus so tha' we can secure this case," beamed Hagrid as he clasped his fingers together. Theodore turned to look at him nervously, then turned back to Hermione who was looking at the floor.
'Well? Say something, you idiot! Apologise!'
"Er… Hi," Theodore murmured as he sunk his hands deeper into his pockets. This was a whole lot harder when a third party was spectating the entire thing without saying a word.
"Hi," squeaked Hermione before she tapped her chest as she coughed slightly. Theodore managed to divert his eyes away from Buckbeak to look at the Muggle-born who was still gazing at the floor as if something interesting was happening down there. Hagrid was right, Hermione wasn't looking all too well. The bags under her eyes became more prominent; her hair was frizzier than normal and her nose was very pink, although Theodore didn't think that had to do with work-related stress.
"H-How've you been? I mean, your face, is it…?"
"Yeah! I'm all better now, so… yeah." Theodore barely noticed that Hermione took two steps towards him. He foolishly looked over to Hagrid again, who was pretending to tend to Buckbeak, and back at Hermione, now straightening himself.
"Hermione… I'm sorry for the way that I acted towards you. I… I didn't mean for you to get upset, or to make you feel lonely. I was just being selfish and stupid at that moment, and you know what happens when I'm like that. Nothing good ever comes out of it, especially for the four of us. I honestly thought that what I was doing at the time was more important, but I was wrong. I didn't mean to do any of that and I'm-"
"What was the thing," Hermione interrupted. Theodore just realised how close she was, and how she lifted her gaze from the floor to look at him.
"The thing that you were doing. What was it?"
Theodore had to hold his frown back. Why was that important right now? His mother's will ended up being mostly useless despite everything that she gave to him. The house wasn't going to be his until he was seventeen, whatever money he had was gone, and his godfather was Snape. The only takeaway from the will was that he knew she was buried (supposedly) in Godric's Hollow, a place where Theodore had no clue as to where it could be. What was there to tell her?
The Parselmouth scratched behind his ear as he muttered, "Something that was a waste of my time. It was just stupid."
"But you won't tell me." She said this in a tone that was unlike her usual bossy self that was determined to know whatever schemes he was devising, and what sounded down, almost melancholic like the boy didn't want to confide in her at all.
"I'll show you! Well, if you really want to, I mean. I-It's not really that mind-blowing, to be honest."
"That is, unless you're involved," Hermione said with a growing smile that somehow brightened her formally dull face. Theodore couldn't help but mirror her expression. He guessed that Hagrid would be one of the first places to go to for advise, save for Viripin and occasionally Dumbledore.
"So, we're okay now," asked Theodore with his hand outstretched. Hermione took one look at his open palm and shook it without any hesitation while shaking her hair as she nodded. The boy released a sigh of relief but stiffened up when he felt Hermione's arms wrap around his torso. It wasn't quick like all the previous times that they hugged. She didn't hold him in a tight grip this time, no. Theodore felt her slightly digging into his chest as he his heartbeat was running faster than ever, his skin slowly starting to swelter inexplicably. He didn't know if it was really his own heartbeat or just hers against his chest because he never felt like this before, not with her. He shakily embraced the girl as well with his longer arms, able to pull her in just a little more.
She nuzzled into his chest some more, elevating his heartbeat even higher until she broke away with her fingers briefly clinging onto his clothes. For a moment, she didn't look as if she was flustered by any of this. Her face was still the same colour, and she was just smiling at the Parselmouth as if she didn't feel any of that. She must've felt all of that as well, thought Theodore to himself. It couldn't have been only him.
"Alrigh'!" boomed Hagrid as he turned to the two children as if he didn't hear a thing between them. "We'll brief yeh on the entire thing. Eh, 'Ermione?"
"Yep! I've read up on a lot about Hippogriff trials, and managed to salvage all that I could," chattered the Muggle-born happily as she locked her fingers with Theodore's to pull him to the oversized table, "so this is what we came up with so far. If we're going to win this one, then I think I should focus on the- Theo?"
Theodore blinked rapidly when Hermione decided to finally snap her fingers in the dazed boy's face. "Yeah? Sorry, yeah?"
"You were just looking at me like-" The girl didn't finish her sentence as she hastily arranged all the parchment sheets together. She hid her flustered face away from the boy, whose face was just as red for the first time. Their cheeks were burning as they turned away from each other, ignoring the confused looks from Hagrid as for a moment, in perfect synch, their heartstrings twanged. How very…
Let's be honest, we all knew that they'd make up in one chapter. I'll keep the angsty-anger/problems to the bare, bare minimum until they hit around fifteen. And just because Snape is Theo's godfather, doesn't really change a thing between them. Bit of bad blood but we'll see how things played out. But anyways, hope you enjoyed this chapter and I will see you later.
Guest: Never written or read an actual will before so my bad. And there's not that much secrecy in his backstory either, since the basis of it was already established in previous chapters. The will may be there, but just because it's a will doesn't mean it'll make huge changes in Theo's life (apart from the obvious).